Nov 12, 2006

Memphis Belle

We arrived home today from our wonderful trip to Memphis. We flew out last Thursday to meet Ada face to face. Seeing Gina and Steve was the icing on our Ada cake. We went to the Bolton High School production of It's A Wonderful Life, in which Gina's niece, Emily, played the part of Zuzu.
She is a GREAT baby! In addition to being beautiful and good natured, she is going to be an astronaut - her daddy says so (so I'm sure it's true).

It got pretty chilly in Memphis, so I got some great shots of Gina, Steve, and Connor in the steam of the hot tub this morning. Con and Stevo made a pretty good team this weekend when they cleaned the leaves off the deck and the hot tub cover.
You have to click on this picture to see the great expressions on their faces. Biscuit the wonder-schnauzer impatiently waited for someone to brave the cold and throw the tennis ball for her to fetch. Needless to say, her wait was in vain - it was just too cold to stand up and throw the ball.
Marilyn had a strange and wonderful effect on Ada. It seems that whenever Ada gazes up into Marilyn's lovely hazel eyes, she gets the urge to evacuate her bowels. Before leaving, Marilyn was given a new nickname, Auntiepoo.

Nov 8, 2006

Funeral for a Friend

We attended the funeral of Karim's mother, Nadia, today. She had a lovely service and eulogy. Nadia was a great lady

Here is her obituary:

NADIA WASSEF passed from this life on Monday November 6, 2006, following a courageous battle with cancer. Nadia was born on July 2, 1943, in Cairo, Egypt. She immigrated to the US in 1980. Nadia ran a successful real estate business in Houston, Texas. She saw real estate as a wonderful investment and started her own brokerage company, Imperial Properties. Nadia enjoyed painting, creating stained glass, and repairing heirloom crystal and porcelain. Her greatest love was spending time with family and close friends. Her son, Karim, whom she loved dearly, brought great joy to her life. Nadia has so many friends that have been touched in some way by her smile, her great wisdom, caring spirit and gentle touch. We know she will be greatly missed by all who knew her. Preceded in death by parents, her mother Saniya and her father Fahmy, she leaves to cherish her memory her devoted son Karim, her husband Samir and her great aunt Afifa. She will be sadly missed and lovingly remembered by several other close family relatives in the U.S. and Egypt. A celebration of Nadia's life will be held in a closed casket service on Wednesday, November 8th, at 2 O'clock P.M. at St Anne's Catholic Church, located at 2140 Westheimer, Houston, Texas, 77098 The Family wishes to thank Wilfred Smith, Cordelia Cockrell, Nedira Abdowaise, Pam Clift and especially J. Nicole Rogers for their unconditional love, care and devotion throughout Nadia's fight with cancer. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions are made to the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. Because of Nadia's great love for nature and birds, arrangements have been made to plant a tree and place a bench in Nadia's name. You may send your donation to the Houston Aboretum located at 4501 Woodway Dr, Houston, TX 77024. Interment will follow the service at Glenwood Cemetery, located at 2525 Washington Ave, Houston, Texas 77007.

Published in the Houston Chronicle on 11/8/2006.

Oct 26, 2006

Woody Wants to Die

Today Mikey sent me a link to a funny site. One of Mike's coworkers is deliciously twisted. It seems that Woody is oh so bored at work, and he just can't take it anymore. Woody tries to off himself again and again - he's the hapless Harold of the toothpick set.

You have to visit the site to see the rest of Woody's failed suicide attempts. His real life tormentor has a wonderfully vivid imagination and a wicked sense of humor. I give this site two severed thumbs up.

Oct 21, 2006

Eleanor Rigby

The last book I read was just prior to our move. I started to blog it, but didn't get the chance to finish it before everything became too hectic.

After reading this book, I still have to say Douglas Coupland is still one of my favorite authors. In Eleanor Rigby, Coupland tells the story of a woman in her 40's who is not married, lives alone, and has only her work as a source of social activity. She doesn't particularly like her work, but she is good at her job. As her life goes on the same, day in and day out until one day something unexpected changes her life and her world forever. She receives a call from a hospital, where a young man has listed her as his emergency contact. The young man listed her as his mother.

Whenever I read Douglas Coupland's books, I feel like I know the characters. The people he writes about seem like people I've met or worked with before, so his stories always feel familiar and somehow comforting. Douglas Coupland has a knack for telling stories about ordinary people living ordinary lives, but as Coupland develops his characters, it become apparent that they are more complex than they seem at first glance. His characters become strange and extraordinary, after the reader discovers unusual events in their history. Coupland's characters are proof that life story of every person is profound when viewed in the context of what circumstances they have survived.

Oct 13, 2006

Moon Cake

Moon Cake - Red Lotus Paste with Two Egg.

I went to Chinatown a couple of weeks ago and saw a table piled high with these beautiful red tins. The lady behind the counter informed me that they were for the Moon Festival, which fell on October 6th this year.

I was feeling adventurous, so I bought one of the tins of moon cakes and took them home. Unfortunately, I forgot that I bought them, so they have been sitting in the pantry until today.

There are four moon cakes to a tin and I was told by the lady behind the counter that they are to be cut in quarters, and each person is only supposed to eat one of the quarters because they are very filling. I was also told that I should eat them with a cup of green tea.

I bought the Red Lotus with Two Egg variety, because I was told they are the "most beautiful." They are definitely the most interesting. I like the lotus paste, but I am not sold on the egg yoke, and they are more than a little oily. I don't think I am going to crave moon cakes in the future, but I'm glad I tried them. Now, who do I make a gift of the remaining moon cakes to?

Oct 11, 2006

Entirely Too Much Cat for One Basket

This is a relatively small basket and about 25 lbs worth of cat spilling out of it. Lena is resting her soft little cheek against Bodhi's soft little cheek.

Welcome to the World Ada!

I love this little girl!Introducing: Ada Isabel Dukes, the newest member of our motley clan.
This is Gina, Ada's happy, glowing mommy.
Ada and her Daddy in peaceful repose. You can't tell it from looking at this picture, but she already owns him - he never stood a chance.

You can find more pictures of our darling Adabel at:

Oct 2, 2006

Casa Mantequilla

This is Casa Mantequilla. The focus of much of my distraction for the last couple of months.
Casa Mantequilla from another angle. Two weeks after La Loca made her final exit, we moved into our first house.
The previous owner loved to garden, so the back yard is quite lovely. The patio is now full of my plants, but I will probably put most of them in the ground before long.
This is a view from the living room out into the back yard. We have more birds, butterflies, and squirrels than I would have guessed could fit into a back yard in the city. Yesterday we saw nine little birds having a grand time in the bird bath.

This is Connor sitting in the living room floor during our inspection of the house. He's playing his PSP and oblivious to all that is going on around him.

This is a view of my desk, the same view as the picture above, but with furniture.
This is the view from my desk. The couch is in front of the desk, but you can get a really good view of the TV, as long as Marilyn's unusually large noggin is not centered on the horizon.
I will post a daytime view through the windows from the computer soon - it is one of the best things about having the computer in the livingroom.
This is Saffie sprawling across the kitchen floor. It took her a week, but she is finally acting like she's at home in her new house.

Jul 30, 2006

Champagne Lip Balm

Stewart and Heidi gave me this fabulous champagne flavored lip balm for my birthday. It really feels good, so I took it to my office when the lip balm I kept in my desk drawer ran out last week. What I didn't anticipate was that it would so realistically smell like alcohol. It took me the better part of a day to figure out that all of my clients were not relapsing (although I still have my doubts about one of them). I replaced my champagne lip balm at the office with a non-alcoholic variety - now I just hope I don't get pulled over by the police when I'm wearing it. I wonder how it will test on a breathalyzer...

Jul 29, 2006

Ender's Game

Marilyn read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and raved about it, so I picked it up and was immediately caught up in the fantastic story of a boy genius who is destined to save the world from an alien race called buggers. Ender's Game is touted as one of the best sci-fi books ever written, and it may be. I was amazed at how a book originally written in 1977 could so accurately portray so many things that have come to pass, like the use of things like video games to train soldiers and the use of the Internet to disseminate political messages. The story of Ender Wiggins, the 6 year old genius who goes to Battle School to learn how to become a great commander, is both wrenching and exhilarating. It is difficult to read about a 6 year old who is isolated and alienated by adults who are trying to mold him into a killing machine. Overall, I enjoyed Ender's Game, but I found the sequences in which the adults in Battle School talked about Ender's treatment rang false to me. I would still recommend it and I plan to read the sequels and go see the movie when it is released in 2008.

Jul 21, 2006

Creepy La Loca Update

I got this e-mail from my landlady today:

Thank you for taking the time Tuesday to go into court and testify against Tina. I understand that you were particularly articulate and largely
responsible for our getting the judgment.

It turns out that Tina is even crazier and more desperate than we had realized. Last week she spent so much time trying to get the FBI to charge Mary Katherine and our management company with hate crimes that she is now banned from the FBI building.

Yesterday she apparently called the Secret Service Field office in Houston and said that if she was evicted next Tuesday she will kill someone.

Please be very careful. We have been advised that the Houston Police have been notified and if you do need to call them they will respond.

She is so creepy. I am still glad I testified, but I am dreading having to deal with her until she moves. I am dreading dealing with her after she moves, too. I don't think this will be over until we move out. What a mess.

Jul 19, 2006

Crazy Court

I testified for the management company today at La Loca's eviction trial. It was a rotten experience. Mary Catherine, the neighbor with MS, is a ghoul. When I arrived at the courtroom, she pointed to the front two rows of seats and grinned saying, "These two are ours." I just nodded affirmatively. She really was taking a sick kind of delight in trying to get La Loca thrown out of her apartment. Mary Catherine and I were the only neighbors to show up, and midway through the trial, I told her to be quiet. She kept saying things out loud, like white trash at the Jerry Springer Show.

Court opened at 9:00 AM, and several cases were thrown out because neither the apartment management or the defendant showed up for the trial. Three cases had one party show up, so the judge knocked those out in about 10 minutes each. Then our trial came up, and it went on for two and a half hours. The management company vice-president was first to speak. Apparently, they had been confiscating her signs, so they had her Wookin' Por Nub sign and her Laptop for Sale sign.
The short of it is that I told the judge that I was sure there would be retaliation on her part, but that I felt I owed it to Connor to come to court and tell them about her bizarre behavior. She accused me of being a liar, whipped out a sealed envelop and chucked it at the judge telling him, "There is a thousand dollars in that envelope, I want her to take a lie detector test." She brought up a lot of irrelevant issues, mostly "violations" she feels the management company has committed. She even tried to claim my plants were "trash" and cluttering up the courtyard. Her arguments were wild, varied, and even inappropriate. She brought up an argument that Mary Catherine's boyfriend was having sex with Mommy Dearest. There was an e-mail introduced into evidence in which La Loca proclaimed her lust for a tenant who moved out of her residence after only living here for 3 months to avoid the unwanted advances of La Loca.

The judge sided with the management company and told her that she needed to leave the courtroom and not accost any of the witnesses as we left. She has 5 days to file an appeal, or vacate the premises. My guess is she will be filing an appeal. I parked my car in the Medical Center and took the train into downtown this morning.

On my way back to train, La Loca pulled up to the intersection just as I was about to cross. She was stopped at a red light, but I was going to have to walk directly in front of her to get to the train. It was reflex, I waited until another pedestrian stepped out in front of her car before high tailing it across the road. She yelled at me as I crossed, "God is going to get you for this." I'm pretty sure that the only one who will try to get me is her. Before I got home, I got a call from the attorney who thanked me for my bravery. I don't feel particularly brave, but I am glad that there is a good chance she will be some point, anyway.

Jul 15, 2006


On Notice by MEG

Marilyn doctored the "On Notice" list from the Colbert Report. It fits this blog entry because I got a call from the management of my apartment complex asking me to go to court and testify against La Loca for them next week. They are working on throwing her out of her apartment and they want me to be a character witness against her. On the one hand, I can see why they are taking her to court, and I agree that she needs to go. On the other hand, I am not looking forward to living in the building she burns to the ground after they throw her out. I am also not looking forward to having my tires slashed after I testify against her and she's thrown out. I don't relish being responsible for her homelessness, and I do not think I want to see her on the elevator where I work heading to the homeless program. I told them I would call them today with a decision either for or against testifying against her, but I absolutely blocked it. I didn't remember to call them until after 7:00 PM.

Jul 6, 2006


The latest incident/straw - Mommy Dearest got her tires slashed. Connor's money is on La Loca. I don't doubt it, but Mommy Dearest seems to have the ability to piss people off, so who knows?

Jul 4, 2006

Little Rock July 2006

Fireworks Over Vinson by Finijo
The trip to Little Rock was pretty good. Arguing was minimal and a pleasant time was had by all. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed summer nights in Arkansas.
Party Keg by Finijo
We set off fireworks one evening and ate barbecue cooked by BJ - who is quite a good cook. The carport entrance under the patio leads to what will probably be a full apartment with a kitchen, living room and bathroom. It also contains a tornado/storm safe room.
Side View of Dave's New House by Finijo
Dave's new house is coming along nicely. He says he thinks it will be done in about 2 more years.
Waterfall by Finijo
He completed the waterfall and the rock siding his new home. It is all much bigger than it appears in the pictures.
Front View with the Boys by Finijo
This is a front view of the house with Connor, BJ and Reuben (the dog) standing on the landing that leads into the living room.
Front View from Driveway by Finijo
This is a shot from further down the driveway. It will really be breathtaking when it is finished. Dave has created a pretty unique space for himself.
View of Property from a Distance by Finijo
This is a view of the old house, pool house, trampoline, and gazebo. You can barely see the volleyball net off to the right. Dave has an fundraiser luau every year, so at least once a year, the property is filled with festivities, barbecue and lots of people.
Pool View of Old House by Finijo
This is a view of the old house and the pool house. Ruben is inside the fence debating on whether he should take a swim or not.
Connor and BJ Wrestle by Finijo
Connor and BJ had a wrestling match with the floats. Connor is almost as big as BJ, now. It is surprising that he caught up with BJ as quickly as he did (Con is 12 and BJ is 20), but it is not completely unexpected.
Ruben Plays Ball by Finijo
Ruben loves to play ball and he loves to play in the pool. In this shot he is playing with Dave while Marilyn and Connor look on. If you look in the background, you can see the new house peeking from behind the trees.
Ruben at Rest by Finijo
Ruben doesn't sit still a lot, but I was able to get a shot of him while he watched Marilyn and I walking around outside. Ruben is a really cool dog.

Jun 28, 2006

I don't have a girlfriend!

Connor Too Close by Finijo
When I picked up Connor today, he was not as exuberant as he was yesterday. I had him point out Katherine to me and when he did the two of them barely looked at each other. I knew something was up, so I waited until we were out the door then asked, "Did you two break up today?" He answered that they had and said, "We just weren't ready." He didn't seem too broken up over it, but when I questioned him some, he shocked me with his complete absence of any kind of understanding of little girls. He said, "I told her that there was someone else, so it wouldn't be so bad for her." Of course I explained to him how he needed to rectify that fib with the truth, because it is the best policy, and because Katherine will appreciate knowing that he didn't break up with her because of someone else. He said he'd tell her tomorrow, and that they are still friends - at least that's something.

Ripe Van Winkle by Finijo

After I picked Connor up, we went to Starbucks to meet Mom. It was the weirdest trip to Starbucks - EVER. The family sitting at one table over was so loud that when they left, we could not only hear our own conversation, but we could hear a pin drop. The replacement customer for that table (I'll call him Ripe Van Winkle for reasons that will become obvious) was a real treat. Before Ripe sat down, he made his presence known. I was tired and sitting with my elbow on the table and my chin in my hand, when suddenly I could not figure out why my hand was so stinky. I was literally sniffing my fingers trying to figure out why they smelt of armpit and wondering what I could have possibly touched that someone would have wiped their armpit on. Marilyn alerted me to the fact that we had a new table neighbor and that the fragrance I was smelling was him and not my own hand. As I was sitting there looking at him (as unobtrusively as possible), I noticed him picking up his bottle of frappuccino, unscrewing the lid, and then he did something that struck me as hilarious. He sniffed it - twice! It was like he was checking to see if it was spoiled. All I could think was that there was no way he would be able to smell spoilage over his own stench. Ripe Van Winkle is like Fabreeze in reverse. He managed to cancel out the smell of coffee in a Starbucks (completely) and replace eau du cafe with BO - I did not even think that was possible.

***No homeless people were made fun of in this blog. In spite of the hirsute appearance of Ripe, his hair was clean and his clothes were clean. It is a reasonable assumption that his armpits were riddled with bacteria, though.

Jun 27, 2006

I have a girlfriend!

What's not to love? by MEG

Today when I picked Connor up from the Y, he bounded towards me, and as soon as we got out the door he blurted, "I have some news. I have a girlfriend! A REAL one." It turns out that the girl (Katherine) who has been following him around since camp started, finally wore him down and now he has a girlfriend. I asked him if it was the same girl that told him she liked him three weeks ago (when he was "not EVEN interested"), and he told me, "Yeah, she freaked me out at first, but I've gotten to know her and I like her." I asked him what he liked about her and he said, "She's nice and funny and she laughs at my jokes. She even gives me pity laughs when my jokes aren't that funny." Connor doesn't know her last name, but she asked him to be her boyfriend, so it's a done deal.

I am alternately thrilled for him to be merrily entering into his adolescence and dumbfounded at how we got to this point so quickly. I know it may seem like this was 12 years in the making - but it went by a lot quicker than that, believe me.

Jun 24, 2006


We got a new fan and I LOVE it. I know that doesn't make for much of a blog entry, but I like to spread the news when I like something. The fan is a Lasko 2530 Elite Wind Tower, with oscillation and a remote control. It's a space saver, it's quiet (really quiet), and it has three speeds and a timer. I looked for the website to find out what other products Lasko sells, but it is nowhere to be found. Instead, I found this article on line at

Lasko Products Inc. recalling 5.6M fans

February 8, 2006 WASHINGTON --Lasko Products Inc. is recalling 5.6 million Lasko, General Electric, Galaxy and Air King fans because an electrical failure in the motor can cause them to ignite. The West Chester, Pa., company has received 42 reports of fires possibly associated with motor failures, with seven reports of injuries, including burns and smoke inhalation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday.

At least eight of the reported fires resulted in extensive property damage. The company has recalled: --Lasko box fan models 3700, 3723, 3733 and 3750; cyclone fan models 3510, 3550, 3800 and 35105; Wind Machine models 3300 and 3521; Air Companion model 3515; Air Director model 2135; and Wind Tunnel models 3400 and 3410. --General Electric box fan model 106620 and cyclone fan models 106600 and 106630. --Galaxy box fan model 3733. --Air King cyclone fan model 9500 (20-inch deluxe pivot fan) and Air Companion model 9515 (15-inch deluxe pivot fan). The fans were sold for $10 to $25 at discount department stores nationwide from September 2000 through February 2004.

Consumers should stop using the fans immediately and contact Lasko to receive a free fan protection cord adapter. For more information call the company at 800-984-3311 or visit or
The recall notice is disappointing . The model we bought is not listed, but it is possible that the company is either gone or took down their website. The fan we got has a special safety cord that looks different from any cord I've seen before, so I'm not worried about it burning the house down, but I would like to get a couple more of these fans in the future.

Jun 23, 2006

Weekly World News

Every now and then I see a headline in the Weekly World News that makes me laugh out loud. When that happens I know I just can't pass up the opportunity to buy it for Connor. He loves this paper and it's twisted stories. The first time he picked up the paper in the checkout aisle at the grocery store was in April of 2003 when the headline read "Saddam and Osama Share a Gay Love Nest." He was mortified and hooked the instant he read the headline - I guess I was, too.

Jun 22, 2006

Saffie Hugs Bodhi

I looked over at the couch tonight and noticed Bodhi was wearing a Saffie collar. What a couple of weirdos - at least they keep me laughing.

Jun 20, 2006

The Saga Continues...

As I walked out my door this morning to go to work, I noticed La Loca standing in the walkway outside the gate with a large police officer. I input the code to get out, but before I could get past them, the HPD officer stopped me and asked if I could talk to him for a minute. He walked me back inside the gate outside of earshot (hopefully) of La Loca, and asked me what I knew about the incident that happened yesterday. He asked me if I witnessed an assault. I had a feeling that she would take it all the way to the cops and I decided that as stupid as the situation was, I had only one choice - to be completely honest. It was pretty obvious that the cop already figured out that La Loca was not all there. I told him that I did not witness an assault, but that a guy with a cane did restrain her briefly and that I told him to let her go. I also told him that La Loca obviously had mental problems and that she is often inebriated. I was on a roll, so I finished off by telling him that I would be moving out of these apartments as soon as possible. This is not how I wanted to start my morning. It's not how I want to start any morning - ever.

Houston - Flooded with Insanity

Peephole by Finijo

Today we had severe storms and flooding throughout Houston. I probably could have made in to the office at some point, but the forecast called for heavy showers throughout the day and I had the opportunity to work from home, so I did. At first, I thought this was a good thing, but a couple of hours into my telecommuting, I heard La Loca arguing with a man. Then she started screaming, "Help me! Help me!" I opened up the door to see La Loca (sans wig) squaring off with a man, the caregiver for another neighbor (Mary Catherine). The caregiver (who uses a cane) is pointing his cane at La Loca and yelling, "You need to apologize to Mary Catherine." La Loca yelled back at him, "Fuck you!" Caregiver yelled back at her, "You are not going to insult Mary Catherine (a neighbor with MS). You go and apologize." La Loca countered by screaming back over his shoulder and into Mary Catherine's open door, "Mary Catherine, he's a cheater! He's fucking my girlfriend upstairs in number 10." The neighbor/girlfriend La Loca is referring to is Mommy Dearest, who is reported to be off the wagon in a big way - so much for 7 months sobriety and healing the relationship with her son, Nelson (Ha-ha!). The next thing I knew, Caregiver wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and he lamely (think bad leg) tried to force her to go apologize to Mary Catherine. La Loca screamed at me to call 9-1-1. I told Caregiver, "C'mon now, just let her go." Caregiver immediately released his less than vice-like grip and she got away from him, but still kept screaming at me to call 9-1-1.

La Loca Through Peephole by Finijo

The scariest thing about this circus of a situation was seeing La Loca without her wig. OMG! I now know way more than I ever wanted to about her mental condition, specifically that La Loca suffers from trichotillomania. From the look of it, she spends all of her spare time plucking herself bald. The dance macabre between the lame Caregiver and the patchy La Loca is truly one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed. The yelling continued for a while. La Loca called him a "son of a bitch" and a "cheater," and Caregiver called her a "drunk" and a "bitch." In the many, many years I have lived here, we have had people from all walks of life as neighbors, but I don't think we have ever had as much drama, insanity, and stupidity as we currently do.
Mommy Dearest Across the Pool by Finijo

La Loca returned to her apartment to retrieve said wig, then began to pace back and forth from the gate to her door - taking a path directly in front of my door. I could hear the clopping of her heels as she went back and forth, again and again. That's when I got the idea to try shooting a picture through the peephole. There is more artistic expression and rising to the challenge of trying to get the shot, than there is stalker my taking the pictures. They came out pretty good, if you expand them. Shooting through a peephole with a digital camera is a little hit or miss with no peripheral forwarning and only the sound of footsteps to go by, but I managed to get a shot of La Loca and of Mommy Dearest. Before finally retiring to her apartment to presumably pass out, La Loca banged on my door and screamed, "Thanks for nothing, bitch." In spite of her vitriol, I think I would still open the door if she screamed for help - I may leave the chain on, though.